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En español | Medicare does not pay for the type of comprehensive exam that most people think of as a “physical.” But it does cover a one-time “Welcome to Medicare” checkup during your first year after enrolling in Part B and, later on, an annual wellness visit that is intended to keep track of your health.
Initial visit: The “Welcome to Medicare” visit with your doctor aims to establish the state of your health when you enter the program and provide a plan of future care. The doctor will:
Annual visit: During an annual wellness visit, the doctor measures your height, weight, body mass and blood pressure, and may listen to your heart through your clothes. The rest is a discussion of your own and your family’s medical history, any physical or mental impairments, and risk factors for diseases such as diabetes and depression.
The visit provides a snapshot of your current health as a baseline for future yearly visits and is intended as a preventive service — a way of catching potentially serious health issues early. Your doctor can develop a personalized health plan for you, check that you are up to date with preventive tests such as cancer screenings and flu shots, and may refer you for some tests, many of which Medicare provides for free.
Both the initial and annual visits are optional. You do not need to have had a “Welcome to Medicare” checkup to qualify for later wellness visits, but Medicare won’t pay for a wellness visit during your first 12 months in Part B.
Both services are free of charge (no deductible, no copay) if the following conditions are met:
But make sure that you ask specifically for "Welcome to Medicare" or annual wellness visit by name. If you ask for a “physical,” Medicare will not cover it and you’ll be responsible for whatever the doctor charges.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2014. It has been updated with the latest information regarding Medicare coverage in 2020.
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